Well, just when I thought that the rain was just a small cell, it started raining hard, or 大雨 as it is called. So instead of starting on time, the rain continued to come down for about 15 minutes past the starting time - meanwhile everyone ran for cover.
But the renovations to Koushien stadium must have helped because the new drainage system seems to have done wonders. No puddles.
So about 45 minutes late, we head into the afternoon session, we find that both of the Hokkaido teams will play for the right to... well... face each other in the next round. (How did that draw work itself out that way??!)
Anyways, Hokushou made a good showing in senbatsu earlier this year. But they lost badly to Oogaki Nichidai, and now has to face a returning squad in Nagasaki Nichidai.
The team is pretty much unchanged since the spring, and ace Matano Tomoya leads them again. Oddly, the only new video on him is him batting against Hakodatedai Yuuto.
His pitching profile hasn't changed. Low 140's fastball with a slider, fork and curve. He still strikes out a batter an inning, but gives up over 4 BB's per 9 as well. He'll need to keep that down if he wants to be successful.
Now it's not really that odd that Matano's video is him batting, as he is the cleanup batter who does show power. He's not the only one who Nagasaki should be worried about though. There's leadoff batter Oono and C Nishida as well.
Nagasaki Nichidai comes back to Koushien, but with almost an entirely new squad. Nakamura Souhei takes over at the ace number, but his peripherals appear to be the overall one of the worst of the starters (8.74 H/9, 6.35 K/9, 4.24 BB/9). This will probably put a lot of pressure on the offense to score runs. Two consistent batters that they might look to are Hirata Taijirou and Yamashita Kengo.
Hokushou (Minami Hokkaido)
SS Oono (Masaya)
2B Kimura Yuuji
C Nishida (Akihisa)
P Matano Tomoya
CF Abe Kenichi
LF Nodate (Tomohito)
RF Itou Youichi
1B Chiba (Tatsuki) #18
3B Kuroda (Kenji) #15
Nagasaki Nichidai (Nagasaki)
3B Shimabukuro Shouki
SS Higa (#12)
2B Shikada Koutarou
C Yamashita Kengo
1B Hirata Taijirou
RF Yamazaki Takeshi
LF Takao Souichirou
CF Maehara (Takashi)
P Nakamura Souhei
14:17 - First Pitch!
Nakamura with an overhand delivery and a fastball in the 135 range and a change in the low 110's.
Kimura with a good idea trying Nakamura's footing with a safety bunt down the 3rd base line. But Nakamura fields it cleanly and makes a strong throw to 1st.
Nishida drives a ball to right! That's over Yamazaki's head ant at the base of the wall for a double!
Kinjyou-kantoku with a conference on the mound as ace (and cleanup batter) Matano steps in.
They are giving him nothing to. 3 balls low and one high and it's a semi-intentional walk.
So, having pitched around Matano, can Abe capitalize?
Grounder to first and Shimabukuro takes it to 3rd for the out.
Shimabukuro punishes a change down and in and crushes that over the right field wall...
It's 1-0 Nagasaki Nichidai!
Higa with a grounder to the right of 2nd. Kimura runs it down, but Higa beats out the throw! Shikada bunts him over, as Kinjyou-kantoku looks to add-on early here.
But cleanup batter Yamashita flies out to center for the 2nd out.
A walk to Hirata shows Matano's flaw, in that he tends to be wild, usually flying his body open and the pitches can be left up.
Anyways, a flyout to center by Yamazaki ends the inning. But the leadoff homerun by Shimabukuro gives Nagasaki Nichidai the early lead.
Nakamura shows off a slow curve to Itou, and again to Chiba. He records 3 quick outs, the last being a fastball right down the middle to Chiba to end the inning.
If Nakamura had bad peripherals, it ain't showing here.
That's mean. Matano with a slow curve for a strike, then a slider on the outside corner for a strike, then the same outside slider that fools Takao for strike 3.
Ooo... Matano hits Maehara on the first pitch.
Huh... that makes up for it. Nishida takes the first pitch from Matano and fires it to 1st! Chiba with the tag and they pick him off!
And for good measure, Matano finishes off Nakamura on yet another slider away, this after a slow curve for a strike.
*When I refer to a slow curve, it's generally a bit of a looper at around 100 kph, or around 60 mph. Yes, that slow.
Kuroda gives the ball a ride, but it hangs out in center for Maehara.
Oono strikes out, the ball hits him, but he's called out with no opportunity to advance - and Kimura pops out for a 1-2-3 inning.
Shimabukuro leads off the 3rd and perhaps Matano goes up and in for a small message. Regardless, he makes good contact again, but it's a liner to center.
A flyout to right and a K ends the inning.
The skies S of the stadium still look threatening, but it's not raining.
Nishida with a grounder to short. Higa there to get it, bobbles a bit, but beats out a not-so-fast Nishida.
Matano just CRUSHES one to left. Takao goes to the wall, but jogs as the ball just leaves the yard. That's what you call a no-doubter! 1-1!
And Abe with a liner over Shimabukuro's head! Abe rounds for 2nd, takes a wide turn, but still gets in safely.
Nodate with a chance to give Hokushou the lead, but he strikes out looking on a ball that looks a bit low.
Regardless, Nakamura retires Itou to end the inning, but Hokushou, more specifically Matano, answers Shimabukuro's homerun with one of his own!
Yamashita with a hard liner, but right at Matano who picks it for the first out. Then walks Hirata for the 2nd straight time.
Matano strikes out Yamazaki, but the ball gets away from Nishida and Hirata advances to 2nd.
Hey! First time I hear "Zankoku no tenshi no teeze!" and it's for Takao! Win.
It's starting to rain again... fudge...
Takao gets ahold of a hanging offspeed pitch and drills it to left! Nodate to the wall!
Takao with a 2-run homerun to left center! It's 3-1 Nagasaki Nichidai!!
But just as he crosses home, the umpires call everyone in. We're in our 2nd rain delay. And unlike the first one where they covered home and the mound, they pull out the full tarp this time.
15:03 - Rain Delay
By the way. The funny thing now is that with the renovations, the overhang over the infield seats is larger. So everyone has just moved up into those rows. It's an interesting scene.
The rain has finally let up, the tarp is finally off, and we're ready to play ball again. Much to Matano's dismay perhaps...
16:25 - Play ball!
Looks like the 80+ minute delay hasn't hurt Matano to start. He strikes out Maehara looking to end the inning.
So having not pitched in a while, will Nakamura be affected? His team have him a 3-1 lead about 90 minutes ago.
Kuroda with a one-out liner to center.
Oono with a swinging bunt! Yamashita with the ball, stumbles, turns and throws to first.. collision!!
Oono and Hirata collide at first and the ball gets away! Kuroda advances to 3rd! Runners at the corners for Kimura!
And what is Oono thinking? He's easily thrown out trying to take 2nd! Not sure if was a delayed steal or not, but Oono had no chance.
Kimura with a pop-up in foul territory. Hirata running towards the fence, reaches, has it, loses it, grabs it again as he slides for the 3rd out!
Great opportunity wasted by Hokushou...
One down, and Matano walks his 3rd batter of the game in Shimabukuro.
Higa was sent to bunt him along, but after falling 1-2, he's still showing bunt! He pulls it back, but it's a pitchout! And Shimabukuro takes off for 2nd! Nishida's throw is in plenty of time to get him for the 2nd out.
And then he plunks Higa... ooooo~~y....
No matter though. He gets Shikada to pop out to end the inning. We head into the 5th inning break with Nagasaki Nichidai leading 3-1 with all 4 runs scored via the longball.
Matano reaches out and wheels one through the right side for a one-out single.
Abe with a liner down the right side... foul! And he just gets under one and lines out to right.
Train-train plays as Nodate steps in. And he pops out in foul territory behind home to end the inning.
Nakamura looked hittable right after the break. Hokushou hasn't been able to take advantage of it.
Yamashita leads off the 6th with a single to left.
Hirata with a comebacker that Matano snags. Throw to 2nd gets one, but the fielders collide preventing a throw to 1st. Kinjyou-kantoku elects to have him moved over for Takao.
And perhaps there's a message in that ball above his head.
But Takao hits a hanging slider! It just goes foul!
He hits a liner, but it goes right at Itou for the 3rd out.
Another one-out runner for Hokushou as Chiba lines one to right. Kawakami-kantoku elects the bunt to give Oono a one-time chance to drive him in and cut the deficit in half.
Oono with a golf shot. It's falling in the fielder's triangle... and Yamazaki dives... and makes the catch!!! That saves a run!
Bet that hurts less with the wet ground.
Nakamura with a ball down the left field line for a 1-out double!!
And now Shimabukuro with a single past a diving Oono into left! But Nakamura holds at 3rd! Still, chance for Nakasaki to add an insurance run!
#14 Kamachi ? comes in for Higa.
But he hits a grounder right to Kimura! Throw to 2nd for 1. Oono's relay to 1st... double play!! Hokushou gets out of the inning still trailing only by 2!
#6 Ishii Daiki comes in for PH Kamachi and takes over at short.
Kimura takes a 4-pitch walk to lead off the inning!
Nishida with a drive to deep left! That's off the base of the wall! Kimura is flying around the bases! Takao's throw goes over the cutoff man but it doesn't matter! Kimura scores on Nishida's double to make it 3-2!!
Kinjyou-kantoku calls a conference... with Matano coming up...
And he swings at the first pitch! But he grounds to short! Key out for Nakamura!
Abe trying to drive in that run. Falls behind 0-2, but works the count full...
Nakamura gets Abe on an offspeed down and in! 2 outs!
And now Kawakami-kantoku calls on #11 Kobayashi Eitarou, a 1st-year to get the job done.
But he hits a grounder to 2nd! Shikada with the putout and Nagasaki holds onto the lead!
#16 Sugiura Takuma comes in for PH Kobayashi and takes over in left.
Matano almost has a 1-2-3 inning, but Hirata ruins it with a 1st pitch single through the left side.
Yamazaki follows that up with a liner over Matano and Oono... AND IT GETS BY ABE!!!
He takes a bad angle at the ball and it gets past him all the way to the wall! Hirata comes all the way around from 1st to score, adding a crucial insurance run! 4-2 Nagasaki!
Takao flies out to right to end the inning, but 2 runs just might be enough.
Last chance for Hokushou...
Itou with a hard shot. Caught by Shimabukuro! 1 down.
Chiba pops it up. Yamashita running over by his own dugout... and makes the catch right at the edge! 2 down!
Last chance in Kuroda... but he goes down swinging...
And so at least one team from Hokkaido will be going home today. Matano pitched well for the most part, but a couple of crucial mistakes cost him the game.
Give credit to Nagasaki though, they sure know how to crush a ball. And Nakamura certainly didn't pitch as badly as the peripherals indicated. They'll be moving on to the next round to face the winner of the final game of the day.